The story of another unforgettable West Ham United campaign...
The stage might have already been set – but my goodness, did the show deliver.
The foundations for West Ham United’s unforgettable 2021/22 season were paved last year with a Club-record Premier League points tally, a sixth-placed finish and direct qualification for the UEFA Europa League group stage.
That the season would be long-serving Club captain Mark Noble’s last as a player only fuelled a collective desire to make it all the more memorable.
Yet as the scenes grew in grandeur, from the return of 60,000 fans to London Stadium against Leicester City back in August to raucous Claret and Blue-clad followings at Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, Waldstadion and Parc Olympique Lyonnais, David Moyes’ men stayed true to themselves: a giving, grafting and gifted unit.
This is the story of 2021/22 – and we begin with the first chapter, which covers the opening two months of the campaign...
Having earned the right to play on a European platform, Moyes and his backroom staff set out to bolster their squad ahead of a first-ever UEFA Europa League campaign proper, alongside their heightened domestic aspirations.
World Cup-winning ‘keeper Alphonse Areola was first to arrive in a productive summer, joining on a season-long loan from Paris Saint-Germain, with fellow France international and seasoned European campaigner Kurt Zouma next to arrive.
Nikola Vlašić completed a permanent transfer from CSKA Moscow, and Alex Král arrived on loan from Spartak Moscow, both on transfer deadline day.
On the pitch, the Irons picked up where they left off, remaining unbeaten in, and winning five of, their seven pre-season fixtures, including a 6-2 win at Celtic Park.
And that run of form was capped by a 2-0 Betway Cup triumph over Atalanta, with the Hammers looking in fine fettle ahead of the new campaign.
For the second successive season, West Ham kicked off their Premier League campaign against Newcastle United - but this time in outstanding fashion.
There was no shortage of entertainment for the 50,000 in attendance at St James’ Park – pandemic restrictions dissipating in the off-season, allowing thousands of Claret & Blue clad supporters to raise their voices from the terraces once more – as the Irons twice came from behind to defeat the Magpies 4-2 on Tyneside.
The Hammers then had the first opportunity to play in front of a home crowd of their own for the first time in 541 days against Leicester City – and duly delivered an historic evening.
An emphatic win which included a brace from Michail Antonio – on a night the forward moved ahead of Paolo Di Canio as the Club’s all-time top Premier League scorer, before hoisting a cardboard cut-out of himself aloft in celebration – yielded a 4-1 win.
The month concluded with a 2-2 draw against a dogged Crystal Palace side, two days after the Hammers had been drawn in Group H of the UEFA Europa League - their first-ever campaign in the competition proper.
Games might have kicked off, but the adventure was only just beginning...